"Are you a good witch or a bad witch or any witch at all?" Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) is set to play Glinda, the Good Witch from "The Wizard of Oz" in an upcoming Dec. reading of Stephen Schwartz's latest musical, Wicked, in New York. Idina Menzel of Aida, Rent plays her polar opposite, Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Wicked is, of course, based on the novel by Gregory Maguire ("Lost," "Confessions of a Wicked Stepsister"), which purports to tell the true story of "Oz"'s Wicked Witch of the West.
And, boy, is Elphaba not what she seems. Raised in the backwaters of Oz but sent to school in the city, Elphaba suffers through her dormmate Glinda's prissy behavior, becomes a radical animal rights activist (when the Wizard arrives, he immediately reduces all animals, even the talking ones, to their former roles as beasts of burden and food) and falls in love. She is first a revolutionary, then a recluse ruler, disgusted by the tactics of her armless sister's tyrannical religious regime and her schoolmate Glinda's pompous royalty. Maguire conceived the book as a funny and twisted look at how good and evil is perceived.
Schwartz, creator of the hits "Godspell" and "Pippin," is writing the score with a book by Winnie Holzman. But Schwartz says they will not recycle the plot so much as "mostly center on the relationship between Elphaba and Glinda." In terms of score, Schwartz likened the sound to his Children of Eden.
Holzman is a television scribe, currently at work on the popular series "Once and Again." Other credits include the cult hit, "My So-Called Life" and the Off-Broadway musical, Bird of Paradise. Joe Mantello has been named director. Scheduled to direct the postponed Roundabout Broadway staging of Assassins, Mantello's credits include Design for Living and Love! Valor! Compassion!, for which he won the 1995 Tony Award.
Marc Platt produces. A workshop production will follow in March, 2002.